Group life is essential to the full life of the individual.
In the last three blogs we examined how Leadership Shadows adversely impact group culture and performance. There are three different motive needs that result in three distinct leadership styles, each having its own unique “shadow” and corresponding culture. The figure below summarizes the model:
As Wilfred Bion reminds us in our opening quote, while there are numerous challenges for working in groups, at the end of the day connection to others is essential for a full life. The purpose of this blog is to explore how to create more Dynamic group cultures by becoming more Actualized and in doing so, become more resilient, less reactive, and better able to manage your Leadership Shadow. If we fail to objectively examine our style, and to manage and process our shadow, it will manage and process us.
As a reminder, the Actualized Performance Cycle framework below illustrates the connection between leader style and group performance.
What does a Dynamic Culture Look Like?
Imagine a work environment where everyone on the team is working together for a common purpose. Team members sincerely trust each other, members are candid and supportive of each other, conflict is managed effectively, and decisions are made collaboratively. Furthermore, imagine a team where the collective output exceeds the individual skills of the members. This dynamic, referred to as “synergy,” is commonly captured with the equation: 1+1+1=5.
Leaders that create and sustain Dynamic performing groups, teams, divisions, and entire organizational cultures do three basic things: 1. Create a compelling strategic direction for the group, 2. Provide the necessary resources to achieve said vision, and 3. Stay out of the way. It is in each of these three areas where Leadership Shadows are likely to emerge, and negatively impact the culture.
Leading a Dynamic Culture
For example, it can be difficult for Achievers to provide a compelling vision for a group. Achievers are so used to being in the details, focused on execution, that it can be difficult for them to think into the future of possibility. They often prefer to live in the world of current reality, not future potential. Actualized Achievers, however, are focused and spontaneous, organized and flexible, efficient and effective.
For Affirmers, providing the necessary conditions and resources for success can be challenging. While Affirmers are very loyal team players and would often give the shirts off their backs to help someone, creating conditions for success also requires being candid with others, engaging in “crucial conversations” to provide critical feedback and enforce performance standards and expectations to elevate performance. Oftentimes, Affirmers would rather salvage the relationship than focus on optimal performance. Actualized Affirmers, however, are friendly and assertive, trusting and objective, caring and candid.
And for Asserters, staying out of the way can be especially challenging. Although Asserters are loath to roll up their sleeves and do work that they deem “beneath them” (as opposed to Achievers who are more comfortable doing the work), they have a very difficult time getting their egos out of the way. A strong Asserter wants to retain total control, and have much of the work be about them and their persona. As such, it can be challenging for the Asserter to psychologically, if not physically, stay out of the way. Actualized Asserters, however, are confident and supportive, driven and understanding, courageous and humble.
What changes could you make today that would make you more Actualized in your approach to working with others? What would become available to you if you were vulnerable and courageous enough to make these changes? What would your team be capable of accomplishing if you, and your Leadership Shadow, got out of the way?